Exciting, killer Ramones style punk pop to fall in love with
San Francisco’s Terry Malts emerged from the indefinite hiatus of literate Smiths acolytes Magic Bullets as a “drunken experiment”. After years of over-thinking things, they have traded in their clean, jangly guitars for a scuzzy buzzsaw sound recalling The Ramones and Psychocandy era Jesus & Mary Chain.
While there seems to be an almost deliberate transparency regarding their influences, in this age of familiarity, with the hypnagogic pop phenomenon spreading like wildfire through the American underground, it has become boring to focus on who each band sounds like, and is far better to concentrate on the actual songs being written.
In the Slumberland label’s tradition of dark and dreamy noisescapes (Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart), Terry Malts fit in exceptionally well, banging out a memorable lo-fi racket with the perfect dose of melody and punchy rhythms.
The record blasts off with the bouncy “Something About You”, all glorious ringing guitar and a propulsive drum beat over vocalist Phil Benson’s likeable Joey Ramone-esque crooning. It’s possibly a knowing tribute to The Ramones and their lanky frontman, as the lyrics even compare the effects of infatuation to getting your head fucked up like “sniffin’ glue”.
After a few seconds of protracted feedback, they’re back with “Not Far From It”, which starts with a female voice sample declaring, “I’m so desperate for some fun!”, which aptly sums up the group’s party ethic. Chugging along in the same brisk 2 minute fashion with squealing repetitive riffs and lamentations on why we don’t just do what we want with our lives…
Next is “Where Is the Weekend?”, a no-nonsense, frantically paced blue-collar punk anthem, pining for an antidote to the tedium of the working week.
This is followed by the spine tingling “Tumble Down”, opening on a bristly, throbbing bassline that melts in a a candy-coated dirge of swooning guitars. The romantic, adolescent earnestness of the simple, undressed lyrics float in and dance in swirling, dreamy echoes.
The atheist statement “No Sir, I’m Not a Christian” flies in on a Mary Chain squall of feedback, and it seems at times the continued use of this device between songs slackens the album’s pace a little, but it is a minor quibble. “No Sir” is an ear splitting 90 seconds of ingeniously catchy anti-religious indictment, and with it’s relentless groove and spitfire sass, surely one of the album’s highlights.
“Waiting Room”, another hymn to boredom and uncertainty in love that manages not to feel angsty, builds on a lone guitar chime and a Buzzcocks “Pulsebeat” drum pattern as Benson warbles “In the waiting room/It doesn’t look so good/Well I don’t want to be a hobby/so if you want me you know where I’ll be.”
On “I’m Neurotic”, a steady Jaki Liebezeit metronome percussion style carries the track as it explodes in a flurry of cymbal crash whollops and blissed out distorted guitars that climax with an oozing, fucked up “California Girls” sample.
With “Nauseous”, Terry Malts have penned an archetypal punk tune, an off-colour three chord love song with the great sing-along chorus of “Your love makes me nauseous, na-na-na-nah-nauseous”.
“Mall Dreams” is a token anti-consumerist jibe, attacking the brand mentality and our lust for ‘stuff’, showing off the band’s cynical, sneering yet playful and funny lyrics – “A zombie is still a zombie in J. Crew”.
“No Good For You” showcases the group’s ear for splendid upbeat bubblegum, with steady fuzzed-up guitar bursts beneath an utterly brilliant vocal harmony.
“I Do” is another tough love barbed-wire tale filled with razor sharp hooks and crashing percussion like an adrenaline injection, while “What Was It?” is a pummeling pop nugget laced with scratchy guitar work and a driving bump-bump drum beat.
Negative Approach cover “Can’t Tell No One” doesn’t sound as punishing as the original, but expertly picks up on the song’s revved up pop potential, and, like the other tracks, is over almost as soon as it begins.
“No Big Deal” winds the album down in slow melancholy wails of feedback as Benson sings with a messy frankness, “No big deal/That was just my heart you ripped out”, with a great call and respond vocal chorus and a smoldering guitar solo that drifts off into more Psychocandy style feedback.
True to the band’s aim to “get to their inner Trogg”, the subject matter is rarely weighty, mainly taking on girl trouble, unrequited love, waiting for the weekend, and boredom.
Terry Malts use a time honoured pop formula, but rarely has a new band crammed such sheer excitement and joy into a mere 34 minute listening experience. Each of the songs scrape in at just over 2 minutes long, but they capture a wonderful youthful exuberance, and each euphoric blast is like a high BPM caffeine kick that never outstays it’s welcome.
There is a charisma and a winning charm to their succinct and sincere output that is hard to resist, so just let go and get hooked!